June 01, 2019
Carson Wentz was supposed to be Patrick Mahomes.
You know, before Mahomes became the NFL's new young-gun MVP quarterback. And, you know, before Wentz tore his ACL, then hurt his back and missed eight regular season (and five playoff) games over the last two seasons.
Wentz was 2017's MVP front-runner throwing for 3,296 yards, 33 TD and just seven picks in 12-plus games. Last season, Wentz completed nearly 70 percent of his passes and threw for 3,074 yards, 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 11 games. Ask anyone in the Eagles locker room (like we did during OTAs this week) and you'll hear a clear consensus: his MVP-contending days are still decidedly ahead of him.
"I'd be very surprised [if he doesn't play like an MVP again]," Jason Kelce said. "Carson is an incredible player. He has a number of things that lend themselves to the caliber player he is. Not only can he throw the ball, [but] he is incredibly smart. He's a cerebral guy. He has the drive. I have high expectations for Carson Wentz and this offense."
Kelce is a wryly veteran, one of a few who are practicing at the voluntary OTAs (as Jason Peters, Lane Johnson, Fletcher Cox, Malcolm Jenkins and others skipped for various reasons). Why is Kelce pushing through May practices? The more he works with Wentz, the better the center-QB dynamic will be this season.
"It’s a big part of it," Kelce said. "Unfortunately, with the injuries and stuff, he's been in and out. But now we get a full offseason to work together, to work on the calls and the nuanced things."
The offensive line-quarterback chemistry is just one small element. The Eagles have brought in a bevy of new offensive weapons — all of whom will need to be on the same page as Wentz this season. And even in a short amount of time together, those new targets see an MVP signal-caller in their midst.
"He's a baller," J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, the Eagles' second round pick this offseason. "He puts the ball exactly where it needs to be all the time. He is a great leader... If I am a little shaky on something, he makes sure I know it, and he is never shy to say 'what's up.'
"The ball travels faster. He puts it on the money. It’s a catchable ball every time. Having him in the huddle gives you a lot of confidence."
Wentz will be entering Year 4, and two of the guys who have been with him the entire way see his leadership and All-NFL potential every day.
"The guy probably should've won [MVP] two years ago," favorite target Zach Ertz said. "And he's playing at a very similar level to that right now in my opinion. I think the sky's the limit for him. I've always said he's one of the best players in the NFL, regardless of position. He's not going to read to much into it — his goal is to be the best quarterback he can be for this team — but with the pieces that we have, with the weapons that we have overall as an offense, with the running game, our O-line, we shouldn't have any issues moving the ball. And Carson's going to be the focal point of that. I'm not going to put too much pressure on him because he's not going to put too much pressure on himself — he's just trying to win football games."
"I think one of the reasons he'll be where he [was in 2017] is the conversations that he's having," Nelson Agholor said, emphasizing how important the off-the-field stuff is to NFL success. "He's always going to be super talented... but he's honestly having great conversations with the wide receivers, the guys on this team, telling people where he'd like them to be or telling people to tell him what they saw. And that's true leadership. That's what a truly special quarterback does."
ESPN is projecting Wentz to toss 30 touchdowns in 2019, the fourth most of any QB. They also think he'll eclipse 4,100 passing yards thanks to the additions of DeSean Jackson and pass-catching RB's Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders. And many pundits across the NFL-commentating world think he is a dark horse MVP candidate as well.
Oddsmakers project Wentz as the ninth leading favorite for MVP, with Bovada offering +2500 odds.
Wentz has the locker room to interact with for an entire offseason, he has first team reps to take every single time the team takes the practice field, and he has long, well-developed preexisting relationships with every returning player on the roster.
Wentz has the tools on the field, the health and the drive to show the world what a full 16-games at 2017 caliber looks like. It seems like all he's gotta do to achieve it is stay healthy and play.
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